The drier air of autumn is here and it’s time to take out our lip balm or chap sticks. Did you know that one of Japan’s leading makers of lip balm is right here in Shiga?
Omi Kyodaisha (近江兄弟社 Omi Brotherhood), a pharmaceutical company based in Omi-Hachiman, sells a lip balm called “Menturm Medicated Stick.” It is their flagship product and you can see it in stores nationwide.
However, it looks very similar to another chap stick called “Mentholatum Medicated Stick” made by a different company in Osaka. The dark green design is very similar and you have to look carefully to tell them apart. What can I say, buy the one from Shiga. Look for “Omi Brotherhood” on it.
Omi Brotherhood was founded by the architect and missionary William Vories. In 1920, the company had a license with The Mentholatum Company, Inc. in the US to import and sell menthol-based products under its own brand called “Menturm.” However, The Mentholatum Company was bought by a Japanese pharmaceutical company in 1988 which subsequently started selling the “Mentholatum Medicated Stick.” Omi Brotherhood uses a slightly different formula in its Menturm products which still contain menthol.
The photo above shows the Omi Brotherhood Menturm stick I bought from Matsumoto Kiyoshi, a major drugstore chain in Japan. The drugstore created its own packaging, but got the English wrong. It’s obviously not “lip stick.”